Gambling Problem Family Member

How does problem gambling affect individuals and their families?

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According to the federal government’s Problem Gambling resource, up to 500,000 Australians either are, or are at risk of becoming, problem gamblers.

In general, though, gambling can be a fun and entertaining activity – the same source notes it was enjoyed by 70 per cent of Australians in some form during 2009, as per their latest data.

If gambling starts to affect a person’s physical and mental health, or causes their family or loved ones to feel stressed, anxious, it can be classified as problem gambling.

Gambling problems cause strong feelings. Family members may feel ashamed, hurt, afraid, angry, confused and distrustful. These feelings make it harder to solve problems. The person who gambles may even deny that there is a problem. If your family member has a gambling problem, you may have many conflicting emotions. You may try to cover up for a loved one or spend a lot of time and energy trying to keep him or her from gambling. At the same time, you might be furious at your loved one for gambling again and tired of trying to keep up the charade. Oct 22, 2016 If your family members or friends have a gambling problem, the chances are greater that you will, too. Medications used to treat Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome. Drugs called dopamine agonists have a rare side effect that may result in compulsive behaviors, including gambling, in some people.

However, the impact of problem gambling can be more pressing and needs to be managed with support services such as online counselling.

Here, we discuss some of the ripple effects of problem gambling on both the gambler and his or her family members and loved ones.


There is a reason why people refer to problem gambling as an addiction – it can be genuinely difficult to stop, similar in some ways to a chemical addiction to nicotine or another drug. This is because dopamine, a chemical in our brain that causes us to feel happy, tends to be released when gamblers win.

Problem gamblers lose approximately $21,000 annually – that’s a third of an average salary.

This chemical reaction in the brain is one of the factors that contributes to feelings of addiction, and WebMD explains there could be other brain-related factors at play too. Dr Franco Manes, a neurological researcher, notes in a WebMD interview that there is a possibility that impairments in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex make it more difficult for a problem gambler to reasonably consider future consequences. Impulse control and executive decision-making can also be affected.

These biological and neurological factors can make problem gambling very taxing on an individual, causing severe stress, anxiety or feelings of helplessness. Financial repercussions can also pile up, as Problem Gambling reports these individuals lose approximately $21,000 annually – that’s a third of an average salary nationwide.

A research paper by the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) complemented Online Counselling for problem gambling as an effective and productive modern-day solution, because of the anonymity, easy access to Internet and comfort of being able to type rather than talk.

It can be very difficult for a problem gambler to quit due to the addictive chemical factors of gambling.


Another study by the AGRC found that the three most common negative impacts of severe gambling on families were financial pressures, impaired relationships, lack of trust and other emotionally troubling effects.

A build-up of these unhealthy feelings can lead to breakdown of relationships. Indeed, Problem Gambling reported in a study on depression and relationship issues on problem gamblers, finding that they are six times more likely to be divorced, four times more likely to have alcohol problems and four times more likely to smoke daily. Another study by The Problem Gambling Treatment and Research Centre found children of problem gamblers are 10 times more likely to follow in the footsteps of their parents once they become adults.

Gambling Problem Family Member

The AGRC emphasises that these conditions can leave family members and loved ones with adverse effects on their own health, especially when their attempts to dissuade or change the problem gambling behaviour fail. Such situations could benefit more from professional help, so that all parties are being heard fairly and everyone’s views are respected and treated in a considerate manner.

You can call us on 1300 364 277 to book your Online Counselling session or you can also chat to us about our workshops, seminars and courses that might assist you to overcome your relationship issues with your partner/spouse, family or friends.

Many people treat gambling as a recreational activity and a fun way to pass the time. However, there are two sides to every coin, and some gamblers are at risk of turning the fun into a disorder.


A gambling problem can occur at any stage of someone’s life: Those affected by it cannot control their urge to gamble, even though they’re aware that such actions can endanger their livelihood or that of their loved ones.

Thankfully, people with a gambling problem don’t have to suffer alone. There are several ways that you can help your loved ones or even a close friend if you suspect they have a gambling disorder. However, before you enroll them in an addicts’ program, you should first make sure that the person you are trying to help is actually facing this issue to avoid putting a strain on your relationship.

Identifying the Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction

There are several myths regarding compulsive gamblers, and one of them implies that anyone who gambles frequently is a compulsive gambler. While those exposed to gambling more often do have higher chances of developing a compulsive need to gamble, the sheer frequency of gambling does not necessarily help in identifying someone with a gambling disorder.

Simply put, there is a difference between an active gambler and a compulsive gambler.

While it may sound tricky, recognising someone with a gambling disorder is relatively easy if you know what signs to look out for:

  • Spending more money gambling than they can afford
  • Asking for loans or, in the worst-case scenario, stealing to cover gambling debts
  • Allowing gambling to get in the way of their work
  • Having difficulties in personal relationships due to gambling
  • Hiding their gambling habits from friends, family, or medical professionals

If a person close to you exhibits one or more of these signs, they may require professional help, and the best way to provide the right kind of aid is to understand them and the potential causes of their gambling addiction.

Understanding Addicted Gamblers

There are two types of compulsive gamblers: They can either be action gamblers or escape gamblers.

Action gamblers tend to be extroverted and self-confident. They often focus on games of skill, such as poker or blackjack, and enjoy beating the odds. On the other hand, escape gamblers often use gambling to escape from their problems, as the name suggests. They can appear introverted, unhappy, or even depressed.

As we’ve mentioned before, someone with a gambling disorder might appear defensive when asked about it. Such a person can even lie about their gambling addiction, either because they are trying to avoid the topic, or they’re simply denying that a problem exists in the first place. However, by understanding what they are going through, you will be able to initiate the conversation and communicate with them more easily.

You should be mindful when expressing your concerns about their wellbeing, as there are several things to avoid. For starters, be wary of your tone and don’t lose your cool. Ensure that you are offering a helping hand and not preaching, lecturing, or criticising them about an already difficult situation.

Secondly, do not exclude them from family activities or allow them to feel left out. By doing so, you risk them trying to escape from even more problems, driving them ever further towards gambling. Instead, make them feel cared for and let them know that you and other family members are there for them.

Lastly, do not expect an immediate recovery and be prepared for relapses. Many compulsive gamblers suffer from gambling withdrawal – recovering from gambling addiction is a process that will take time and continuous effort.

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However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t always bail them out of their money problems, either. This can be counterproductive, as it might give them the false impression that someone will always be there to pay off their debts, which will only add fuel to their habit. Sometimes, letting a person hit rock bottom might help them understand that they have a problem and recognise they need help.

The most important thing to remember is that you should always be open and honest about your intentions. By expressing genuine concern for someone, you are ensuring that they feel safe enough to admit that they have a gambling problem and might even be open to suggestions and ideas on how to get help.

Helping Someone with Gambling Addiction

Gambling can quite often be a consequence of other underlying problems, such as mental health issues like depression, or even financial or marital problems. The best way to combat addiction is by tackling your problems one by one and working on getting your life back on track.

An excellent way to start would be by helping your loved ones seek support from others who have similar problems and ensure that they attend self-help groups. Also, they should seek counseling and medical help.

By slowly working on their problems and regaining control over their life, your loved ones’ mood will improve, which will help immensely when battling gambling addiction.

Lastly, suppose the situation is severe, and the person in your circle with a gambling addiction requires round-the-clock support. In that case, you should consider talking to them and signing them up for rehab if there is a facility specialising in helping those with gambling problems in your vicinity.


Gambling addiction is a serious issue, and can lead to many financial and mental health problems. It can cause anxiety, depression, and in the worst-case scenario, even suicide. If you suspect that a member of your family is a compulsive gambler, you should approach them and express your concerns about their wellbeing.

Keep in mind that gambling affects everyone differently, and the situation varies from one person to another. For that reason, focus on understanding them and helping them realize that their gambling is negatively affecting them, you, and other members of your circle, but that it doesn’t have to be their whole life.

Ideally, this will help them understand the severity of their actions, and you can come to an agreement about seeking professional help.

This article was kindly written and contributed by Milica Kostic